December began with the very best of intentions. The first day of the Christmas season rolled around and I was already in full swing—planning and listing and projecting and enjoying.
My nativities took center stage in the home decorating. My blog writing for the month began full of sentiment and thought and adoration. There were days of writing planned. Insights to be shared. New points of view to consider. The house livened up with plump snowmen and glittery red stars and shimmering lights.
Somewhere in one of the early days of the month I realized the dulling of my spirit ran parallel with the glitter and the flash. Numbed. Deadened. Like a pencil whose lead is far too close to the wood and the writing is nothing more than scratching on the paper.
A week in and I began to feel it—like a tree whose sap stops running because of the frigid cold. But for some reason, whatever reason I could not get warm. I couldn’t pull my spirit up out of the lethargy.
I tried to read. I heard others talk about reading the Christmas story, read Facebook posts about extraordinary Christmas encounters and experiences, but I continued down this slow spiral into this blank place. A place of fog and mist. Spiritually I could not lift my head. Writing ceased completely. Scripture reading stopped. Prayer slowed to a trickle.
I worked right through it all. Sent out Christmas packages. Ordered special gifts. Laughed at Santa’s antics. Got caught up in the shenanigans of my grandsons’ elves. Listened to our minister deliver really good messages about the ordinary characters in the birth of Jesus. I watched a children’s Christmas play that was wonderful—the gospel message strong and relevant. I spoke about hope to a group of broken and wounded women—looking into their faces almost broke me. But I just couldn’t find my way spiritually. I kept trying to hear the voice of God and I heard nothing. Absolutely nothing. The silence was far too thick. And there was this constant niggling that I was missing it all. All of it—everything. At one point I felt like I had been hit, a punch to the jaw and I tried to shake it off, but simply couldn’t.
The absence of prayer bothered me the most. Prayer for me is usually this wide and powerful river, banks overflowing, curving and meandering and crashing over in waterfalls and currents and white foam. During December it became this iced over creek—barely moving beneath the surface.
At one point I remember being afraid. Fearful of what the silence meant. What it indicated.
The perceived implications overwhelmed me. Paralyzed me.
Outwardly, externally so many things were good. Actually absolutely wonderful things and events and experiences happened for me during this month. Unbelievable, almost impossible things. But inwardly and internally I was struggling. Struggling in a battle I had yet to perceive. And I was getting weary from the struggle.
No, I was exhausted.
Christmas came and I loved every minute.
Two days after my husband and I stayed in all day. Curled up on the couch with movies and quiet and books. And I could feel a slight breaking in the ice of my spirit. The movement of water below the surface increased. Four days after Christmas I had coffee with a dear friend and in the course of our conversation the icebergs began to split. I felt them shift and float. And I began to ask God to wake me up. Five days after Christmas my husband and I declared a date day—we went off for a whole day. We had an agenda—not to do anything we really didn’t want to do. We stopped at a precious brother’s house so I could participate in his only daughter’s one year birthday video. We rummaged in antique stores, collected in craft stores and indulged in bookstores. Leisurely we ate at one of our favorite places and stopped and got coffee and hot apple cider to round out the day.
My waters ran swifter. And the rush of that water pushed back the ice, the fog began to dissipate.
And I woke up.
And my first instinct was to thrash the spiritual skin of myself to shreds.
Tamera, you know better. How in the world did you get into this kind of predicament? You know better than to allow yourself to get too busy during this holy and sacred season. You were too materialistic and out of focus. You were too…and my list went on and on. Far too long. Far too much. My back was black and blue from my own hand.
And the Spirit’s soft gentle whisper reprimanded me. Chastised me. Revealed the truth to me.
I didn’t forget Christmas; I forgot Sabbath. I dismissed the need for rest. For space. For quiet. For stillness. I failed to eat. To drink. Literally and spiritually. I ignored the signs and symptoms of my own body and spirit as exhaustion iced over me.
Friends, you can’t do battle when you are exhausted. Are you kidding? You don’t even have the strength to heave on your armor.
It was in the stillness of the holy season of the celebration of Jesus’ Incarnation that my own flesh began to fail. In the hush of the sacred days of Advent my spirit waned.
But I know this: there were people praying for me. They were battling for me. Around me.
It is now approaching the middle of January. I have made not one single resolution. I have not chosen a word for 2015. The new year routine is still unsettled. There’s something more important happening.
Right now, the Spirit is instructing me to be still. He is breaking up the ice. I have offered to use the pick ax, but the Spirit has stayed my hand.
I believe in grace, but because of my derailment in December I have experienced it once again. I forget. Sometimes we forget the utter profoundness of grace and that it can and does apply to us.
Friends, I know there are some of you out there who are simply and utterly and completely exhausted. You are in a battle—physically, emotionally or spiritually. Perhaps war is being waged on you in all three arenas. You are trying to salvage severed relationships. Attempting to fight disease, cancer and debilitating illnesses. Struggling to last until the next pay check. Worried about your children. Concerned about your parents. Warding off loneliness. Fighting fear. Your armor is scattered and you don’t have the wherewithal to retrace your steps to find it. Right now reading your Bible is nothing more than a rote exercise. Praying is laborious. Fellowship is tedious.
You have been cold a long, long time. The water of you frozen over in a thick layer of icy sludge. For some of you there’s very little water moving—a shallow and narrow trickle. And you are numb. You are exhausted.
I have been there and know this: I am praying for you. Be assured of this: help is on its way.
Father, oh sweet Father.
Faithful. Good. Powerful. You know the weakness of us and how it leads to exhaustion—to the depletion of us. Father, I pray for anyone caught in the chill of this winter’s bones. I pray for those who have grown cold and numb—even the sensation of tingling limbs no longer occurring. Oh, sweet God! I am asking for you to wake them from their slumber. Chip the ice away and fill them with the warmth of your favor, with the truth of your word and the healing of your Spirit. Father, I ask that you would replenish these precious people in their exhaustion. I pray you would provide for them what they need—strength and perseverance. Lift their heads. They cannot lift their faces to you on their own. I know. They are too weary. Too tired and wounded from the battles. Father, be near them. Lend them your strength and energy in their exhaustion. Oh, Father. Wake them up. Shake them. Nudge their shoulders. Take fear away. Swallow it up for them. Give them reason to hang on through the silence. Remind them to hold tight through what seems to be an absence of your Presence. In their hurting, tired weariness come to them. Remind them that the extension of your grace is far beyond their imaginations. In the name of Jesus. Amen.